Wind howls like crazy, the WUMPWUMPWUMP rattle of the window panes the last sound I remember before...
I'm asleep. Aren't I? I'm in some kind of box, a void, a vast black nowhere, and for some reason I find myself wondering whether the cartoonist Paul Coker is still alive. There are images, suddenly--water on glass, fissures in the sky, a nondescript neighborhood suddenly viewed in negative, wiped away in a moment by a blast of light. A nuclear cloud,perhaps, or simply--
Lightning. Lightning at the window, and thunder rumbling. I must be awake now.
But then, why am I in the living room of Mom and Dad's house back in Perry? Why is the TV tuned to the old Rankin/Bass special Twas The Night Before Christmas (designed by Paul Coker!)? Why is that being broadcast now, this time of year? Outside the window the grass is green and the trees are full and lush? Why a Christmas special? Why now? And where is everybody?
Then I'm somewhere I don't know. A pile of tires burns, hippies protest the economy--No, wait. This is just a magazine article I'm reading. I'm on a couch. My beloved mutant cat Pinback is curled up on top of me, as she tended to do. "My little angel," I say to Pinback, even as I remember she's long dead, and she hisses and growls, as she tended to do. The TV is on. Some Matt Dillon movie from the eighties drones on, unwatched. The door opens. Nobody's there.
I sit up in bed. My bed, here, now, real. Right?
The farmhouse. Everything is as it once was, Dad in his recliner, Mom in her wingback chair, my brothers and sisters moving about, going on about their normal activities. I'm there, too, but as an adult, an unseen presence, a detached observer. It's nice to see the old buffet table in the dining room, the phone in its nook, the furniture scattered about in random patterns. It's good to be home.
I sit on the couch watching the old black-and-white Philco for a few minutes, the incongruity of it showing Roy Scheider in Blue Thunder not quite connecting, then notice an old Mad magazine beside me. It's a Mad Super Special, a greatest-hits issue, and I thumb through it, looking for some Don Martin cartoons. Instead, I discover page after page of the tediously unfunny feature Horrifying Cliches, illustrated by Paul Coker.
Is this supposed to mean something? Is this the Rosebud moment, when everything comes together and all these disconnected sights and sensations finally make sense? Because this is nothing--there's no revelation to be had here.
Clackclackclack. A steely rain against the window. Delmar pushes his face up against me. I pet him behind the ears and he begins to purr.